No Stopping Us Now: How Girls Sports Came to IBW


Zoe Toperosky (she/her), Editor

No Stopping Us Now by Lucy Jane Bledsoe is a young adult fiction novel based on Bledsoe’s experience pioneering the women’s basketball program at Ida B. Wells, then-Wilson, High School. 

The protagonist, Louisa Carmichael, representing Bledsoe, has always had a love for basketball but was never awarded the opportunity to play on a team. The story starts in 1974, just after the new Title IX requirements were passed, when there was still little to no representation of girls’ sports both in schools and professionally. To Louisa, this isn’t right, and she tries to change the way the system works at her school. 

When the novel begins, we see that there is no formal girls’ basketball team at Wilson High School, so Louisa throws together a team of 6 girls to play through the rec league. They have no coach, no uniforms, no budget, and only get gym time from 6:30-8:30 in the morning. Even with Title IX in place, the school does not grant the ability to establish an official team. 

We follow Louisa through her junior and senior years of high school, watching as she fights to establish a team and seeing the pushback, threats, and opportunities that come out of the experience. Bledsoe says this novel is based on the real events that transpired with her establishing the women’s basketball team in Portland Public Schools. However, the names were changed and Bledsoe said that many of the conversations aren’t completely accurate. Due to these reasons, the book is marked as fiction but the story itself is real and true to what happened at our school. 

Although the focus of this book is on basketball, it also illustrates the very real struggles and triumphs of being a teenager. Lousia goes through battles of love, loss, and identity, illustrating the things so many of us face. 

Throughout the book, the idea of identity and finding yourself is very prominent. The discovery of sexuality is a topic that is brought up continuously throughout the book and being that it’s set in the ’70s, it’s treated as a much different conversation than it is today. 

While reading this story, it is easy to develop a connection to the character and her journey. Perhaps it’s because so many of the references and places are in our backyard or that the rivalries between PPS schools are still very much alive. But, it’s also due to the fact that girls’ sports are still marginalized. Although we have seen improvements, we can still relate the culture around girls’ sports today to how they were in 1975—when the women’s basketball team was first established. 

Bledsoe was the face of promoting Title IX efforts in schools and creating equal opportunities in sports regardless of gender at IBW, then Wilson, and across PPS. Because of her fearless efforts, everyone now has the chance to participate in sports at school. 

It’s now been 50 years since Title IX was passed. We have seen strides toward gender equality, but it is clear we still have a ways to go. As we work towards a more equal society, remembering where we started can be a helpful tool in persevering through the struggles we face today. 

No Stopping Us Now is an insightful and interesting read that gives perspective and knowledge on how far our school has come since the establishment of Title IX. As we work towards a more progressive future, let’s not forget about people like Bledsoe—pioneers who helped us get to where we are now.. 

1975 graduate and author Lucy Jane Bledsoe will be coming back to her alma mater, Ida B. Wells High School, to speak at an assembly and talk about her work. The event on Wednesday, March 15, 2023, will bring Bledsoe to our school, so don’t miss the opportunity to learn from her and hear her speak.